A terrible school bus accident in Chattanooga last November offers important lessons. Six children died and 31 others were injured, some seriously. The 24-year-old driver had deviated from the norm; he was speeding and possibly using his cell phone on a narrow winding road when he lost control of the bus, hitting a utility pole.
The school bus driver faces six charges of vehicular homicide. He had been involved in two other bus crashes since August 2016 and had received extra training to correct driving problems. Toxicology reports found that there were no drugs or alcohol in his system. Several families have filed personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against the school district and the bus company.
Top 5 Lessons Learned About Pursuing a School Bus Accident Claim
Here are a few critical issues that must be dealt with when pursuing an injury or wrongful death claim after a serious or fatal school bus accident:
- A school district has a duty to monitor drivers, whether they are contractors or employees. If the district learns of negligent and dangerous behavior, it must remove the driver from the job. Parents and children had previously raised concerns about driver’s commitment to safety.
- When pursuing a claim on behalf of the injured and grieving families, it is important to look at how drivers were hired, trained, supervised. Did the district administer drug tests?
- Immediate investigations and research are critical when preparing a personal injury or wrongful death claim. For example, what kind of safety technology was employed in the bus? What are other school districts in the region using to preserve the safety of students?
- School busses should be equipped with seat belts and enforce their use. There are few other types of vehicles in which children ride regularly that do not have seat belts.
- School districts cannot avoid responsibility for tragedies like the one in Chattanooga by claiming that a third-party contractor was responsible, even if they are immune from legal liability because of government immunity. In the case of the Chattanooga bus rash, the driver was an employee of a third party bus company. The national company says it is making millions of dollars of safety improvements in its busses across the country.
After the crash, police in Chattanooga instituted a program of randomly following several school buses or riding the bus itself. However, for the grieving families in Chattanooga, this is almost certainly too little, too late.